Now, I’m not the biggest automobile aficionado. However, that being said I do enjoy racing games, and the more simulation oriented titles have always piqued my curiosity despite my lack of familiarity with all of the nuances that come with the subject. Gear.Club Unlimited is not only set to be the Switch’s first true racing game, but an accessible and fun entry in the genre regardless of skill or automotive knowledge. I recently had the pleasure of spending time with the game at a press event in San Francisco, and I can safely say that it looks to be a promising title for anyone’s Switch library, because it is designed first and foremost with Nintendo’s new console/handheld hybrid in mind.
Looking Good No Matter What
When designing a title for a specific console, it is important to keep in mind the hardware’s specific quirks as well as the hardware limitations. Gear.Club Unlimited “is” a Switch title, and does its best to really utilize the Switch hardware to deliver an enjoyable racing experience. One of the most important aspects of any racing game is maintaining a consistent frame rate, as it does greatly impact how you perform during a race. I can safely say the the game holds up at a consistent 30 FPS during any game mode and scenario. Regardless of whether you play docked or undocked, or whether there is a large amount of moving objects on-screen at once the frame rate always stays smooth. The most impressive demonstration of the game’s stable frame rate was when I played a split-screen match on a docked console with two other players, which is often a frame-killer for the console.
All of this is done without sacrificing any visual fidelity. While not the most graphically intense game, given the hardware Gear.Club Unlimited does manage to impress. Specific praise must be given to the impressive lighting model and reflection effects. I played on both well lit tracks and night-based courses, and both look stunning. The sun and light reflection of the vehicles is a sight to behold and really helps with the immersion factor. That said, Gear.Club Unlimited is a good looking game that doesn’t drop frames – sign me up!
Accessible & Customizable
At its core, Gear.Club Unlimited is a racing game that excels at two main things: accessibility and customization. The game is designed with the idea that regardless of skillset you can jump in and play without the feeling of an insane difficulty curve hindering your experience. Depending on which setting you choose, you can choose to have more or less AI assistance, allowing you to tailor your racing experience to your skill level. While there are different types of assistance to help with those less experienced players, it doesn’t mean that a newbie playing with AI assistance will stomp an experienced player playing without these handicaps enabled. This keeps the game accessible while still competitive and rewarding for those who put the time to really learn the physics and mechanics.
Accessibility isn’t just in the racing itself, it is also in the customization and UI. The game allows you to change and customize multiple aspects of your cars that changes their performance. While the game does show you specific information about the upgradable parts, it also gives you easy to view stats of the cars for the less knowledgeable (AKA me). So regardless of your experience with racing titles you are sure to spend more time enjoying your experience rather than raging at your Switch.
Earlier I mentioned that customization is a big focus of the game, and it really shows with the Performance Shop. This is your garage for your purchased cars and where you can customize them. When you start the game your Performance Shop is very bare bones and lacks many amenities and workshops. Throughout the course of the game you will unlock more workshops and upgraded version of said workshops. There are a total of seven workshops that can be used to customize many things about your cars, ranging from your car’s aerodynamics to it’s wheels and brakes. And the upgraded version of these workshops will gain you better customization options. Now, what is the point of all this customization? To destroy your opponents on the track.
Unlock, Unlock, And Unlock More!
Gear.Club Unlimited is all about progression. You start the game as a fledgling racer with the ability to only purchase the starting vehicles. The game has 30 vehicles from 16 real world manufacturers, that can be further customized as you unlock upgrades. The goal is to win races so that you can unlock more races, and in turn gain more currency, vehicles, and unlock more customization options – and you’re going to be competing a lot. There are over 430 races and 200 tracks, and it is a good thing that the racing feels smooth and responsive. I got to try out multiple vehicles in the game’s car roster, and they all play uniquely from each other. There was an insane amount of detail put into each car to make it run as close to the real world vehicle, along with making the physics engine feel responsive but accessible. Because each car feels unique and can be further customized it encouraged to explore and play around with the vehicles, and find what best fits the track and the race. There are two types of races in the game Time Trials and Derby. Time Trials is where players try to get the best time on a track, with no interference from others and Derby is where eight racers compete at the starting time. So using the customization in combination with knowledge of the track and vehicle creates this interesting macro metagame outside of the actual racing.
Now all of this macro and micro isn’t purely limited to the single player progression, but online multiplayer as well. The true test of all your macro customization and fine tuning, is against other people. Gear.Club Unlimited is focused on making your online experience an enjoyable and competitive one. Ranked is at the forefront with their being ranked season straight from the game’s launch, with ranked seasons not being very long, so you must continuously play if you want to maintain some type of rank presence. There will also be events that will last for however long the devs choose, which will include specific challenged for specific rewards.
Someone kicking your ass online? You can view other player’s Performance Shops to see what they did to make their car a metallic monster on the track. So it becomes this metagame of beating opponents, figuring out how others are tuning up their cars, and testing your mettle against others. All within an online space that encourages this type of competition with ranked matches and events.
I rather enjoyed my time with Gear.Club Unlimited. I didn’t expect to leave wanting more but the game hooked me in. The customization has a lot of depth without being overbearing, and the fact that I can choose AI assistance means I can ease into the whole racing experience much smoother. The main thing is that this is a simulation racing game with loads of content, all in a portable package. Also there will be more cars and tracks coming out post-launch as free DLC. That is a very hard deal to pass up, and to see it done so well makes very excited for when the game launches this year on December 1st.